Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Quick and Simple Seasonal Comfort Food

Passover begins next week. As Jews worldwide are starting to use up the last of their chametz in preparation for the holiday (well, except for these guys) the stores are now being heavily stocked with matzah.

I've always loved matzah. I'm not sure of the reason. I guess as a gentile there was something exotic about it. As I child I remember how my mother and grandmother always bought a box during Passover season to snack on. There was always something so special of that annual treat of a matzah sheet spread heavily with butter. (Is that kosher? Probably not. At least not if you're having it alongside your chicken dinner.) I was fortunate enough to have many Jewish family friends who would invite us to Sedars and I learned the joy that is matzah ball soup.

I grew up and married into the tribe. I married someone who doesn't really celebrate holidays and doesn't have a really big family to celebrate them with (my mother-in-law celebrates Christmas and Easter with my family), but still loves traditional foods. As I've pointed out in the past, I'm the Meshugge Shiksa. Jewish foods are not my strong suit. I am a failure at latkes. But I do keep trying. The least I can do is buy a box of matzah.

I recently joined a local singing class. I haven't been doing much singing lately and I feel like my voice is out of shape. The local school system's continuing ed program had a cheap singing class available, so I decided to take it. That meant another night I wouldn't be home to make dinner. I am out of class at 8:30. Kevin comes home at 9. I can squish a home-cooked dinner in there if I am quick about it.

This week I decided on a very classic, and very simple dish - Matzah Brei. I sometimes jokingly call lit a matzah omlet or matzah french toast. It's simply matzah softened with water and mixed with eggs and fried. Some folks break the matzah up in pieces in the eggs. Others like to coat whole sheets. You can make it savory by just adding salt and pepper or really make it omlet-like by adding things like vegetables, onions, or cheese. You can also make it sweet by adding sugar and cinnamon and serving it with jam (great breakfast idea).

It's so easy you don't need a recipe. I made a savory version for dinner.

Start by soaking 4 sheets in boiling water. You don't want the sheet to fall apart into soggy pulp, but you want them soft and pliable and easy to break into pieces.

Now mix 6 eggs with salt and pepper - as much as you would for your scrambled eggs.

Mix with the softened matzahs.

Now what do you fry them in?

You can fry them in shmaltz. If you do this and are concerned about kosher rules, remember using chicken fat would make this a meat meal. That would limit what other foods you can serve with it. No dairy foods would be allowed with it or immediately following it (no ice cream or cakes made with butter for dessert).

You can also fry them in butter. This also limits your options as the meal is now a dairy meal. I would say making this a dairy meal would be slightly less limiting than if you used the chicken fat.

You can certainly use vegetable oil. That would make the meal neutral, but it wouldn't be nearly as tasty!

Personally, I liked using the schmaltz. I don't have any concerns about kosher rules. When I roast chickens, I always save the excess rendered fat for future use in matzah balls. It's the only way to bind a matzah ball (well, the only way I'd want to bind one). I tend to save more chicken fat than I need, so using it to fry my matzah brei is a great way to use it up. Imagine the flavor of chicken fat mixed into this! I suppose duck fat would also be really good. would bacon fat, but I'm not going to go there.

Allow to cook in the skillet until the bottom has set. You can alternately just scramble it like eggs. I decided to be daring and flip. The best flip method is to cut the large round in quarters and flip individually as I did here. Another method is to just make small rounds of it.

You can serve this with sour cream on the side like you would with latkes. If you're doing it the sweet way, top it with jam and powdered sugar.

It won't win any beauty contests, but it really is delicious. I'm not sure why something as simple as eggs and matzah tastes so good. There is something about it that screams "comfort food" to me. It's a treat that is so easy to make I don't know why people have to wait for passover to eat it.



Complaint Department Manager said...

When you master latkes, you should compile a recipe book and sell it on the yiddish version of ebay:Oy Vey.

Six Feet Under Blog said...

That would be a great book!

Bellini Valli said...

Sounds homey and comforting to me.

The Blonde Duck said...

It looks great!

Ann Minard said...

I Love Matz Brei! My Nana used to make it for us and she would let us crumble the crackers for her. Have you read any of Ruth Reichl's Biographies? They are great and she has a story and recipe for Matza Brei in tender To The Bone.